The Power of the Debrief – Understand Its Power, What to Ask, How to Prepare

April 24, 2018


Do you understand the power of a Debrief? I definitely do, especially since I've been reflecting on the one my team and I had two weeks ago with a federal government agency. As soon as we received confirmation of our losing bid, we sent our request for a debrief and prepared accordingly.


For the debrief to work for YOU so you can move forward stronger than ever, it is critical for you and your team to prepare. Here are three tips to support your intention in having a successful debrief:


1) Request the debrief as soon you hear you have not been chosen. When submitting a bid for the federal government, time is of the essence when requesting a debrief for your losing proposal. According to FAR 15.505 (within 3 days after receipt of the notice of exclusion from the competition), you have the right to request a debrief. Follow the request protocol according to the agency. If you don’t receive a confirmation via email 1 day after your request, call and continue to follow up. You only have three days so maximize your time. If you are requesting a debrief after hearing you have not been chosen for the position or a commercial proposal, follow the same path: request as soon as possible while you are fresh in their minds. This way you are more likely to gather substantial information about how you did as oppose to waiting days or weeks, when you are no longer top of mind.


2) Prepare your questions and send them to the person(s) who will be conducting your debrief at least one day prior to your scheduled debrief.  You may initially want to ask the same questions for each agency, yet I highly recommend for you to do you research on the agency and align your questions to their values, missions and goals. It will make a world of difference! My team and I knew the agency had a common debrief format, yet we had specific questions as to how our bid matched up to others. The focus of our questions centered on our bid and what we needed to do to win future work with this specific agency. While we asked questions related to how well we addressed the technical proposal requirements and whether our proposal was easy to read/follow, we also wanted to know if our content could have been substantiated better. We also wanted to know if our theme and overall messaging not only convey a message, but also provided the one theme they were able to take away from our response. A few of our questions, were:


a. If there was one key area we came up short in, what would that be?

b. Were there any solicitation requirements we failed to address? If so, what were they?

c. Did you find our response easy to score? How could we have improved?

d. Did we strike a proper balance between text and graphics?


Note: Our agency debrief committee were very impressed with our research and appreciated the questions we sent before our call!


3) Remember, it’s feedback. FEED from someone who has your BACK moving forward. Its just that! The words you hear during your debrief are not right or wrong; good or bad. They are only words that do not define who you are as a person or your company. They are to serve as, a guide, to support you and your team moving forward in a better position. My team and I were so excited after we received our debrief – high fives all around! You know why? Because we received the exact steps to implement for our next proposal… our next winning proposal.


I'm here to tell you there is tremendous POWER in understanding what worked and what did not work so that you know how to do something better in the context of what is next!

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